Need a Lyft? Too bad, Dick Assman

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty)

And before you ask: Yes, that’s a real name.

It seems Lyft took its content moderation duties a little too seriously Thursday when its algorithm began flagging certain users’ names—you know, the kind that might earn a giggle on the school playground like “Cummings” or “Dick”—as inappropriate. These users received alerts from the ridesharing company warning them to change their display name to something less naughty or risk losing access to their account.

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Lyft’s community guidelines ban both drivers and passengers from using “abusive, discriminatory, sexual, or inappropriate language,” though obviously someone can’t help if their legal name falls into those categories. Several of those affected took to Twitter to give Lyft a big middle finger for the mix-up.

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For a few users, simply having a non-English-sounding name was enough to trigger Lyft’s warning message for reasons currently unknown (even I don’t know what dirty word you could find in “Kwame”). What they should use instead, though, also wasn’t immediately clear.

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But it wasn’t Lyft’s intention to (further) punish the Albert Buttholes and Inita Dicks of the world, a spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. Rather, the company was tweaking its obscenity filter to weed out a few bad actors and overshot in hilarious fashion:

“Some members of the Lyft community were using names that were either inaccurate, offensive or both. In trying to fix the problem, we cast too wide of a net. We were well-intentioned, but our response clearly led to errors that we are working to correct, and we apologize,” Lyft’s statement reads.

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Lyft didn’t respond to inquiries about how many users were affected. The company’s Twitter bot could be seen all of Thursday requesting information from affected customers, though frustrations only grew at what some perceived as a glacial response pace, particularly as several users reported getting multiple warning messages in the meantime.

Lyft customer Dylan Dick shared a company response he received with Gizmodo after his name was flagged early Thursday morning. In it, a member of Lyft’s support team explains the initial warning “was sent in error” and clarifies Dick won’t be required to make any changes to his display name. “Rest assured, your name does not violate our Community Guidelines, and we’re sorry that we sent you an email that communicated otherwise,” the message reads.

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After all this drama, though, Dick said he’s not even sure if he wants to continue using his Lyft account. “All around, this has been far from a positive experience for me,” he wrote via email.

Though for him—and, I’m sure, most of the folks caught up in this algorithmic snafu—it’s hardly the first time his particular surname’s stirred up trouble. He tweeted Thursday: “First webkinz in my elementary days. Now [Lyft]. The curse of ‘Dick’ being your last name.”

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.